Honda CRF 250L Vs Kawasaki KLX 250S
Back in the day there was a wide range of trail bikes on the market. From the two stroke brilliance of Yamaha’s DTs to the mighty Honda XRs. If you wanted to go green you could head for the Kawasaki’s KDX or KLX range for your dose of off-road riding at the weekend and then return to commuting on the same bike on Monday morning.
But things have moved on since those halcyon days. Trail riding has become more and more difficult to do thanks to meddling middle-aged townies moving into the countryside and the demographics of motorcycling have followed them into the middle years. The resultant effect has been that there are precious few true trail bikes left, and the off-road market has polarised to Austrian domination of bikes that in reality are far from trail bikes. So in a landscape dominated by supremely competent enduro machines that can pound the lanes one day and win Romaniacs the next, is there still a niche for an old fashioned trail bike?
Honda Vs Kawasaki… which is really better?
Looking at our list of trailies from the glory years, the KLX250 is still the only one surviving . Kawasaki continue to produce the soft-roader some thirty years later and although there have been subtle changes and upgrades over the years, the basic bike is still much the same animal – a gentle and easy to use bike that will run for the next two decades with very little fuss. The 2016 version may take some of its design cues from the KXF motocross range, but this boy is no track monster.
For Honda, the XRs and XLs have long since been consigned to the history books. When we contacted Honda to obtain stock pictures of the XR400R for our XR Vs DRZ review, even after trawling through the photo archive of the whole global network from California at Tokyo, Honda could only locate a solitary image of the bike. The XR was made for nearly ten years, sold thousands of units across the globe and continues to be a firm favourite a decade after production ceased, yet only one image exists. That’s show business …
In its place, Honda now has the CRF250L as the only true trail bike in their range. Using what is essentially a road bike engine in a steel frame, the budget priced bike is constructed outside Japan and has proved to be a popular bike for both commuters and would-be off-roaders.
After retiring all of the trusty Honda XRs from our tour bike fleet in Southeast Asia and we needed to decide on their replacement. So which of these bikes would takes the top step in this battle of an often forgotten class? We had to know…
Toby purchased one of each bike in Cambodia and Julian took some out for test rides on the UK’s green lanes. The Kawasaki KLX250S Vs Honda CRF250L… which is really better?
The Kawasaki KLX250 scores well for comfort, thanks to a good seat and good suspension. Even at full chat the bike remains planted and copes with the big hits well. Although the CRF would take the win for road riding comfort.
Although the frame looks sturdy and well finished, the steel needs care to keep it from getting rusty in damp conditions. The bike needs a proper bash plate straight away.
As the KLX is relatively tried and trusted tech, it needs to be a tad cheaper than the RRP. Haggle like hell if you are buying new.
The KLX has some MX style presence in the car park and looks the part. Expect to change plastics occasionally to keep it from looking tired.
As stock the power needs freeing up to be really enjoyable. It’s fine and stupidly quiet in standard form, you just know it’s being strangled. We wouldn’t dream of using this bike on our tours without modifications.
Green, Clean and far from Mean – KAWASAKI KLX 250
The fact that this bike still exists within Kawasaki’s range is something of a miracle. With the big K often struggling with Suzuki to keep up with Honda and Yamaha, the need to streamline their range must be ever present. So the very fact that it is still there does suggest that however much the market might have shrunk for this machine, it is still there. And on the basis of our test, we can see why. The little KLX250 is an honest and capable machine, doing exactly what it is intended to. And what’s more it’s capable of being substantially better with not too much effort or indeed cash.
Coming in at just over £4000 in the UK, it’s a cheap bike to start off with compared to the performance enduro models at almost double that. The bike runs a four valve, fuel-injected, six geared 249cc DOHC motor in a steel perimeter frame. The front forks are only adjustable for compression damping, but the rear can be tweaked for preload, compression and rebound damping.
The bike runs the usual off-road combination of 21-inch front and 18-inch rear that affords a full choice of proper off road rubber, which you’ll need if things get slippery. The main bugbear in the spec sheet is the 138kg that the KLX tips the scales at. Kawasaki say this is the curb wait rather than dry weight, so at least that’s the top end, but try to get that on a paddock stand and you certainly want any more!
So what else do you need to know? The brakes use a 255mm front and 230mm rear disc, the tank has a fairly small 7.7 litre capacity and the ground clearance is 285mm – that’s not massive in off-road terms but big in road terms.
The clocks are clear and easy to see, which is not true of the headlight.
The exhaust is a full Euro 3 compliant unit with an internal catalytic converter. These are not words you want to hear.
If you think that engine looks familiar you’d be right. Back in the early 2000s, Suzuki and Kawasaki combined forces to reduce R & D costs. The result in terms of motocross was the first tranche KXF250s that enjoyed fantastic success in both US and World motocross, while the almost identical but yellow Suzuki did next to nothing of note. But on the off road side of things, the flip side was true, with the mighty DRZ400 selling boatloads all over the world and continuing to be popular, while the again almost identical KLX400 being almost as invisible as sensible American politicians. We literally have never seen one in the UK.
But the smaller sibling 250 is far more visible and the lump it uses looks a dead ringer for the DRZ donk, even if the internal capacity is lower. And the similarities don’t end there… Click here to view on the Kawasaki website.
RIDE EXPEDITIONS RATING: KAWASAKI
The Honda CRF250L may not have adjustable suspension, but what is there does the job well. The seat is ‘all-day’ comfortable and the cockpit is open once you ditch those nasty steel bars. The KLX has the upper edge of comfort on the tougher off-road.
Even though the CRF250L is built far away from Japan in downtown Thailand, the Honda quality is still there. From the steel frame to the excel rims, it’s good stuff. You will however want to add a strong radiator guard to the top of your shopping list
All this goodness and flexibility for less than 4 large is great value in any currency. Buy a nearly new and you can take a quarter off that too!
For a budget level bike, the Honda is still a looker, so scores high with its MX inspired styling.
As stock it’s competent and copes with on or moderate off-road easily. And simply a new pipe lets the power rip.
Little Red Rooster –HONDA CRF 250L
Pitched at the same price point as the KLX, the Honda CRF250L has been a bit of a silent assassin in the range, clocking up fans from both the tarmac and mud community. As a true Ronseal bike, the Honda does exactly what it says on the tin. You can commute every day from now until your pension kicks in and the bike will never let you down, yet if you want to mix in a bit of dirty fun, then it’s happy to oblige. It’s a winning combination.
Honda list the little CRF in the adventure section of their website and in fairness that’s not wrong. People are taking this bike on trans-global expeditions thanks to its rock solid capabilities and reliability. Like the KLX it’s a 250 cc, six geared, four valve DOHC lump wrapped in a steel frame that’s painted to look like aluminium. It’s clearly not ‘ally’ because if it were the bike wouldn’t come in at a decidedly porky 144 kg. American website Motorcycle.com called this ‘feathery’ – they clearly have some mighty big birds in the US …
The wheels are 18/21. The ground clearance is lower than the Kawi at 255mm and the brakes use a combination of a 256 front disc and a 220mm rear. The look of the bike fits in with the rest of the bikes in the CRF range, but the motor is a transfer from the road division having been swiped from the CBR250R. It works well on the dual-purpose guise having been given a smaller 36mm throttle body and a longer, narrower exhaust header to extend the midrange. The bike is more than capable off-road and just as the KLX, the motor has more to give once freed of the emission friendly gubbins that the regulators seem to love.
Like the KLX, the tank is 7.7 litres but as with the Kawasaki, the Honda is not a thirsty bunny – it sips the unleaded like it would prefer not to have to bother. Click here to view on Honda’s website
RIDE EXPEDITIONS RATING: HONDA
The CRF and KLX out on the trail
Heading out onto the trails, these bikes feel remarkably similar in standard guise. You immediately lose the weight that is evident on the side stand and the bikes both feel surprisingly agile given their bulk. Also immediately noticeable is that you step off an enduro bike onto these two mild-Millie’s you are going to be seriously disappointed. You really have to reset your head to cope with the power drop on the standard bikes. If you keep these bikes for any length of time then the chance of you not seeking out a bit more oomph are small – but more of this later.
The overall dimensions on the two bikes is compact too, maybe a little more so on the Kawi than the Honda. Both use ‘cheap as chips’ steel bars that bend far too easily and transmit lots of trail vibration. Although we appreciate that they are built to budget, not fitting alloy bars to bikes being made in 2016 is a bit rich – ditch them and go alloy before you take the bike out of the garage in our opinion.
The cockpit and the Kawasaki is pleasing and really easy to read compared to the more slim line off-road models. The Honda isn’t bad too, just a bit more cluttered to our mind, but it does have a fuel gauge while the KLX goes for a tacho instead. Both bikes have conventional key controlled ignition that you will forget if you are not used to keys off-road – that’ll be us then!
” On the red dirt roads and easy trails the comfort and smoothness of the Honda wins every time, but when you get to the more snotty stuff it’s the more agile handling and superior suspension of the Kawi that takes the win. And that’s before the mods! “
– Ride Expeditions founder, Toby Jacobs
Out of the two the plastics on the Honda work better, as the tank shrouds on the Kawi seem to catch your riding jeans on occasions. It’s also made of a tougher compound too – our KLX in Cambodia was dropped and plastic snapped far too easily. Similarly – we can hardly believe we are saying this – the footpegs are better on the Honda being both wider and more comfortable than the skinny steel items on the KLX.
Suspension wise, the Kawasaki KLX250 comes out in front, thanks to the adjustability of the rear and front compared to Honda’s ‘you get what you are given’ units. But while that’s a win for the green bike, Little Red gets the vote on the power of the stock machine as it’s got that little bit more bite that you need.
One annoying glitch on the Honda CRF250L that was really noticeable was the fact that the engine is asymmetrical and really sticks out on the right hand case, forcing your legs wider than the left. In comparison the KLX250 feels much more natural.
Both machines come with road based semi-knobbly tyres that sort of do the job on both surfaces, but inevitably fall short once it gets slippery, giving them a vague and uncertain feel. They grip, just take a while to do it almost like they are operating on a fly-by-wire interface, rather than handlebars.
As a final note, the fuel economy on both bikes is just staggering. We went out all day on both machines and when it came to refuel time our trail riding buddies were putting in £8 of fuel in their two-strokes, while the KLX took half that at £4 and the lil’ Honda just £3.50. Impressive stuff.
CRF250L Vs KLX250 – THE VERDICT
From stock these bikes are very similar, as you’d expect. Where the one excels, the other has an answer up its sleeve. Both are extremely easy to ride both on and off-road, but if left standard you will soon find their limitations. On the basis of the marginally more punchy motor the Honda edges it in the battle of the CRF250L Vs KLX250S, but the Kawasaki is damn close even given it’s long model run. Upgraded, it’s a different story…
” We will be replacing our trusty old XR’s with the Kawasaki KLX250 for the trails in Cambodia alongside our YAMAHA WRF450’s for those that insist on extra horses!. But the Kawi as standard simply won’t cut it, so ours will all be heavily modified to improve performance – bored out to 300cc, fuel controllers, aftermarket exhausts etc. The Honda CRF250’s will be used for our tours up in Laos and Vietnam. “
RECOMMENDED BY US…
Ride Expeditions have upgraded our fleet of Honda XR250’s and Suzuki DRZ400’s that we used on our off-road tours in Southeast Asia, and it is now the Kawasaki KLX & Honda CRF 250’s and the YAMAHA WRF450s are the ones to fill their shoes. But bearing in mind that the little 250’s lack in power when left standard, we need to look at options for upping the ponies.
HONDA CRF 250L
For the CRF, releasing the power appears to be relatively simple. A quick swap on the strangling pipe that Honda have fitted to a far more free breathing FMF version releases the horses like opening all the stable doors at once. From a shy librarian it removes its glasses, shakes loose its hair and is suddenly far more fun to be with. In fact the power and noise on the FMF make the CRFL feel much more like its predecessor XR’s – close your eyes and you’ll be convinced that Honda are still making them.
Next up the tyres need to go in favour of proper off-road rubber, though what you choose depends on the terrain. In the UK we go for a trial rear and enduro front, but in Vietnam and Laos where we will be using these, then enduro both ends is the best way to go.
Other than this it’s just a set of new taller alloy bars, either cross-braced or FatBars and we are good to go on a totally transformed Honda that will still return 70mpg and run all day – perfect.
KAWASAKI KLX 250
For the KLX, the older engine needs a bit more help to get real sweet. We’re heading along the route of ‘there’s no replacement for displacement’ by fitting a 300cc big-bore kit for the new bikes we’re using in Cambodia. Allied to this we’ve changed the exhaust system to let it breathe freely and added a hopped-up EFI control unit with improved mapping to match the pipe. The results, when matched to a new 14/45 sprocket setup are an astounding improvement over stock and release the potential in this dependable little motor. Where the stock bike lacked the snap to overcome trail obstacles, the upgrades make it one hell of a bike for adventure motorcycling, and a worth successor to the legendary Honda XR250s we used to run and love. The King is dead, long live the King.
Love a bit of Trail Riding?
Ride Expeditions run incredible tours in amazing places. From the flooded trails of Cambodia, to the hilltop tracks in Laos, our trail riding holidays will make you smile from sunrise to sunset
Review: Honda CRF250L vs Kawasaki KLX250S
With dual-sport continuing to be the fastest growing segment of motorcycling, Honda has finally given us a modern motorcycle for this market. With their XR650L dating back to the time of the dinosaurs, and their illfated attempt at turning the popular CRF230F trail bike into a dual-sport for ’08-’09, it was time for Honda to step up to the plate, and the 2013 CRF250L might just be a home run. As a note, the CRF230L was not a bad motorcycle, but at $4,999 it was unable to compete against the competitively priced but more refined Yamaha XT250, and the more trail-focused Kawasaki KLX250s. With the introduction of the all new CRF250L Honda now undercuts both the XT250 and the KLX250s, putting the CRF in the lead as the new price class leader (only the Suzuki $4,199 DR200SE is cheaper, but is greatly outclassed in this crowd).
Unlike European dual-sports, which are typically hardedged dirt bikes with turn signals and a headlight, Honda constructed the new CRF250L from scratch as a purpose-built small displacement dual-sport. This means that you won’t find ground-breaking single-track performance in the new CRF, but you will find a motor that is well balanced with a smooth counterbalanced single cylinder. The CRF was designed with the one-bike-in-the-garage approach making it as good a lightweight commuter as it is a weekend play bike.
Looking at the CRF250L we immediately paired it up against the KLX250s. Both have six-speed transmissions, four-stroke liquid-cooled motors, inverted forks, digital dashes, near-35-inch seat heights and two-gallon gas tanks. The difference is that the KLX250s has a dirt heritage (and technology) dating back to the ’90s, and it’s still carbureted, whereas the CRF250L is a new design for 2013 with fuel injection. The potential for the new budget-priced CRF250L to crush the KLX250s made us salivate at the opportunity to ride them back-to-back and see for ourselves.
On the Street
We spent a little time on the street, riding from trailhead to trailhead on lazy country roads, so we cannot attest to the CRF’s highway manners, but on the backroads it carved the corners as well as any dualsport with a smooth and refined manner. For a first-year model, the fuel injection was surprisingly well sorted out. The 249cc motor was plucked straight from the CBR250 and tuned for DS duty; this power plant has a good history already, so maybe we should have had more faith… after all it is a Honda.
On the Trails
The first time I lifted the CRF250L off its side stand it was obvious this is not a light bike by 250 standards. Honda claims a curb weight of 320 pounds, which is three pounds heavier than a DRZ400s, and nearly 23 pounds heavier than the Kawasaki! But like so many Hondas that weight melts away as soon as the wheels begin to turn, letting you forget all about it until you have to pick it up on the side of the trail. The only time we noticed the extra heft was riding over rough surfaces where the budget suspension became obvious while the back end jumped from side-to-side and bottomed out while scratching for traction. Maybe if there had been an XT250 with us we wouldn’t have noticed this as much, but against the well suspended KLX250s it was the CRF’s greatest and most obvious weakness. Where we could ride the KLX250s over whoops, climb hills and jump over small obstacles, at nearly dirt bike speeds, the Honda had to be ridden much slower.
The rear suspension is noticeably under-sprung and under-dampened at even a modest pace. At six feet and 190 pounds I noticed this more than our 5'10" 150-pound tester did, but even he found the CRF250L unsettled when the pace was turned up. If your idea of a day of dualsporting includes sitting down while riding backroads, forest roads and a connecting trail once in a while, the CRF250L may be the perfect bike for you, and for many it will be. If your days are spent in search of new single track, you’ll soon discover the budget suspension on the CRF250L and may want to ride the competition before laying your money on the table. The Kawasaki has been the suspension class leader since its introduction in 2006, and is challenged only by the $6,690 WR250R. Suspension is undeniably the CRF’s greatest weakness.
The motor on the CRF250L feels modern, with a crisp quick start regardless of weather or temperature and requires almost no warm-up. No fuss, fancy routines, or patents required. The carbureted KLX250s motor often requires patience, a starting “routine” and some time to let things warm up to get it going. Power between the CRF250L and the KLX250s felt similar with only the delivery of momentum differing. The CRF has a smooth linear delivery, whereas the KLX250s has a snappy rev-happy delivery which requires more shifting to keep it in the happy spot. One is not better than the other, only different, as both me and the other tester had our favorites. As a dirt rider, I preferred the “snap,” of the KLX250s, whereas the other tester often preferred the CRF250L. What the Honda lacks in “snap” it makes up for in a confidence-inspiring linear delivery of power in any gear, at any time. This is not the bike if your idea of a fun day is jumping or powering over obstacles, but riders new to the trail will find it a comfortable, familiar friend in no time at all.
We both preferred the Kawasaki when standing up on the trails, noting the handlebar-to-peg height felt more natural, and the KLX also felt narrower between the legs. However, when sitting, the Honda received the thumbs up with a far more comfortable seated position on the broad comfortable seat—certainly an advantage if used for commuting or travel. The weight distribution on the Honda is neutral and as we mentioned, the extra heft is forgotten when the bike goes into motion. If you spend much time picking your bike up it’s a little more noticeable, and I’d like to see Honda find a way to put the CRF on a diet.
Fit n' Finish
The CRF250L is typical Honda with bodywork that integrates cleanly, hiding unsightly fasteners and seams, in a level of refinement generally reserved for street machines. The controls are well designed, easy to use and blend into the rest of the bike. First glance confirms the CRF250F is no parts-bin bike or a “slap some signals on it and call it a dual-sport” bike. The CRF250L is Honda’s salvo shot across the bow of its competition, letting the world know that this Honda is a serious contender. The CRF even has a locking tool box on the left side of the bike that blends perfectly into the body panels and can be easily removed. When removed the tool box leaves clean lines with hardly any evidence it was ever there… nice touch Honda! The seat is broad and well finished, and indicates it will become the class leader in comfort when riding on the street. The foot pegs are also best-in-class, being wide and cleated for traction with large open spaces to easily clear mud.
*For a list of other great small displacement adventure bikes, check out our Best Used 250cc Adventure/Dual-Sport Bikes article.
(continued on page 2.)
I am predicting Honda has a winner here and will be surprised if they don’t sell like crazy. Classed against the KLX250s, it is easy to see that the CRF250L is an all-new design that was built to be a dual-sport equally comfortable on the street as on easy trails and backroads. The pros of the CRF250L far outnumber the cons and it beckons scores of new and experienced riders into the world of dual-sporting. On the trail the KLX250s was the clear favorite with a more responsive motor, superior suspension and a thinner, more dirt-focused feel, but when competing for the fat part of the market the CRF250L is more likely be competing against Yamaha’s fuel injected XT250, which is more a 50/50 bike, rather than the 70/30 dirt/street bike, that we would consider the KLX or the other 95/5 dual-sports by KTM, Husaburg, Husqvarna or similar European manufacturers.
If you are looking for an inexpensive small displacement dual-sport to commute, travel and trail ride, the 2013 Honda CRF250L may be the perfect bike for you costing $600 less than the KLX250s, $691 less than the XT250 and a whopping $2,191 less than the Yamaha WR250R!
Check out the transformation of our CRF250L Project bike!
View the embedded image gallery online at:
|▲ Fresh new purpose-built dual-sport.||▼ Budget suspension and it feels like it.|
|▲ Fuel injection that works well (no more cold morning starting routines).||▼ The heaviest 250 dual-sport on the market.|
|▲ Typical Honda fit and finish.||▼ Least ground clearance in it's class.|
|▲ The price leader in the small dual-sport market.|
|▲ Smooth predictable power delivery.|
|▲ Ride the trails on the commute home from work.|
|▲ Easy-to-use digital gauges.|
Four-stroke, 249.4cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve single
|Four-stroke, 249cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve single||Four-stroke, 249cc air-cooled, SOHC 4-stroke single|
|BORE X STROKE||76.0 x 55.0mm||72.0 x 61.2mm||74.0 x 58.0mm|
|PGM-FI, 36mm throttle body fuel injection||34mm Keihin carburetor||Fuel injection|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||43mm inverted fork; 8.7 inches travel||43mm inverted cartridge fork with 16-way compression damping adjustment/10.0 inches travel||35mm telescopic fork; 8.9 inches travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Pro-Link® single shock with spring; 9.4 inches travel||Uni-Trak® with adjustable preload, 16-way compression and rebound damping adjustment; 9.1 inches travel||Rebound-adjustable single shock; 7.1 inches travel|
|FRONT TIRE SIZE||3.00-21||80/100-21||2.75-21|
|REAR TIRE SIZE||120/80-18||100/100-18||120/80-18|
|BRAKES||Front 256mm disc with twin piston caliper, rear single 220mm disc||Front 250mm semi-floating petal disc with two-piston hydraulic caliper, rear 240mm petal disc with single-piston hydraulic caliper||Front 245mm disc, rear 203mm disc|
|SEAT HEIGHT||34.7 in.||35.0 in.||31.9 in.|
|GROUND CLEARANCE||10.0 in.||11.2 in.||11.2 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||2.0 gal.||2.0 gal.|
2.6 gal. / California model
|CURB WEIGHT||320 lbs.||297.7 lbs.||291 lbs.|
Rear our Honda CRF230L Review HERE!
you simply get on and ride quietly where others fear to tread
there is some truth in this .. I have not tried the klx, or many other small trail bikes, but I have ridden with a few owned by mates.
eg .. the ttr250 is a cracking bike, plenty of power and traction .. but can be noisy and old fashioned in its rough tough delivery.
what is amazing about the crf250L is its lack of amazing surprise.
it just rolls gently over places you may have worried about,
no drama, noise and power (signifying nothing)
just an easy ride that can take you to some awkward places.
the fuel uptake is great at very low revs
its FI is fab and easy
no roaring, or spinning of rear wheel with chunks of grassy hillside flinging out
just a modest advancement to where you want to go .. safely.
.. so how can you sing about that?
its not an endure bike
not all that high powered
its weak to average on the road,
but great on small tarmac lanes,
great for long distance tarmac roads (tyres permitting) .. comfy seat and riding position,
very good (for perpetual novices like me) on trails but a bit heavy and sometimes cumbersome on technical bits
but overall ... fab (if that's your thing)
Last edited by garyboy on Tue Oct 17, 2017 2:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.Sours: https://adventurebikerider.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=44925
250 vs crf 250l klx
.2013 Honda CRF250L vs. 2013 Kawasaki KLX250S - Lightweight Dual Sport Comparison
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